August 8, 2006 5:38 PM PDT

Designers hanker for next-generation DVDs

LOS ANGELES--As HD DVD and Blu-ray slug it out in a public relations battle, one group is sure to benefit from the move to replace the DVD: special-feature designers.

Those are the people who add the director's comments or actor bios to DVDs. They're about to be unchained, because both HD DVD and Blu-ray technologies offer a means to develop more-engaging special features, according to DVD designers.

"While the rest of the world has advanced in the past 10 years, (DVD designers) have been stuck," said David Anthony, co-founder of Giant Interactive, a New York design company. "The DVD player is essentially an appliance that hasn't been upgraded in 10 years. There haven't been any major changes in interactivity, processing or graphics. The new formats will allow us to do some amazing stuff."

Anthony made his comments after attending the DVD forum here and listening to a series of updates on the progress of the HD DVD format. Backers of that technology are competing with the Blu-ray camp to replace the standard DVD. Both the new formats hold much more information than the DVD and claim to offer superior images and sound.

Technicians working in the HD DVD camp demonstrated some of that technology's new capabilities Monday.

No longer will a viewer have to stop the movie to launch the special features. All HD DVD players are required to be equipped with a second video decoder, which enables dual video streams. That means a user can call up a separate clip that will appear in a small window alongside the main feature.

"For the first time, we're going to be able to run two independent video streams simultaneously," Anthony said.

This will offer audiences an entirely new movie-watching experience. For instance, a movie watcher wishing to see how an elaborate stunt was produced can call up a behind-the-scenes clip that reveals the secrets. Perhaps a viewer wants to watch the movie from a different angle or simultaneously play an interactive game that accompanies the movie; conceivably they'll have that power. Thanks to the Internet connectivity, HD DVD also makes it possible for designers to swap out a DVD's trailers so viewers don't have to sit through dated ads for old movies.

Anthony says the Blu-ray camp is also offering groundbreaking connectivity with its discs.

He says, however, that the application of the new features will likely require greater numbers of computer-savvy designers.

Standard DVDs offered so few options for special features that it required little computer know-how.

"Most designers grew up in the DVD industry and were specifically trained for it," said Anthony, who helped start Giant 10 years ago. "Now you're going to need people that are skilled in Java. We've recently hired two people with advanced degrees in computer science."

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13 comments

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Frankly Who Cares?
Seriously, More features?!?! More features = More money. EVen though I don't pay anything for my DVD's because I "steal" them online (as the industry would like to make you out to be a thief), the cost of a HD DVD or Blu-Ray DVD Player has to come down in price to what a regular one costs first or at least what a new one cost a few years ago to be viable. I am not cheap just an not an early adopter plus I do represent a majority of people in this country from which economic class I come from. With that said, once the technology is available to make copies of DVD BluRay or HD DVD then I will support it. But for now as long as my DVD-R's look like the real thing on my 36" Analog TV I am all set!
Posted by zincmann (153 comments )
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re: Frankly Who Cares?
Exactly. Not to mention, all I want to see is the movie. For all the dvd's I've watched over the years, I have yet to watch any of the crap they put there, and when I 'back up' a rental...I mean, a dvd I own, I only copy the movie, none of that other stuff I'd never watch. This whole next gen stuff is just getting lame. But hopefully they'll keep putting movies out on just plain ol' dvd for years to come.
Posted by Hardrada (359 comments )
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Ditto
I don't even care for HD video. DVD quality is fine by me. Instead of spending $2,000 on a new HDTV to watch movies, and then the player, and then the cost of renting/buying movies, you're talking about $3,000 or more depending on the TV. Now $10 for a movie ticket to see it on a big screen * 300 movies = about the same price. Considering that Hollywood won't even be releasing more then 50 movies worth seeing over the next 5 years, I'd rather save my money.

As for computer storage, this is an entirely different story. Being able to back up 50 gigs of data on 1 DVD is very appealing for many small companies and households who rely heavily on computers for storing homemade videos/pictures/misc.
Posted by coryschulz (326 comments )
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Correct! Who cares about you?
Clearly this isn't aimed at you. You're not an early adopter, not a late adopter, not an adopter at all; you're just a leach siphoning off what you want with no intent to support the industry at all, so I'm sure the industry is not overly concerned with your wisdom regarding their product offerings. Waiting until you can pirate the new technology does not equate to you supporting anything.
And yes, you are cheap. And yes, you are a theif. And while you do represent a large segment of the public, you don't matter. So get over yourself and crawl back to your hole.

By the way, the crap you get online is rarely as good as the current DVDs, let alone the Hi Def versions, but if you're happy, more power to ya.
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Link Flag
HD DVD/Blue Ray is important
Firstly, the extra. I watch them and enjoy them. I dont do the interviews or the commentary, but the how its made, alternative endings and deleted scenes I find interesting as it gives an insight into process of movie making. So, for me better and more detailed extras are great. Some DVDs I have watched the extras and not the original movie.

For HD content think back to the VHS days. VHS as good enough at the time with most people saying they didnt need to move to DVD. That all changed as the improved quality of picture and sound were realised. Going back to VHS is not an option. I agree that prices need to come down a lot as not only do you have to buy a new player, but also a new television. Until the prices for the TV and players are more consumer friendly the uptake will be slow. Personally, I expect it to be 2 years before I upgrade purely based on price.

I always find it interesting to when people say they represent a majority of people. How many people do you think actually read news.com and how many more actually comment. I dont think this is a majority of people.
Most PC users I know dont know how to rip DVDs and for a lot of them ripping CDs is still a challenge even if they considered doing it. So, the case for people buying content is still very strong. Just because you are IT literate and most of the people you know are the same does not make that the norm.
Posted by ahickey (177 comments )
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Why would anyone want one?
I don't really see any compelling reason to get movies in HD. To be honest most of what comes out these days is pure crap (and this from a 20 something) and no amount of resolution is going to improve the plot or make jokes funny. I've seen HD video and while it's pretty I am not all that impressed. The move to HD does two things, it lets Hollywood have another go at consumer unfriendly DRM and it gets people to buy their movies over again at the inflated price of a new media. Once they start enforcing the image constraint token, if your TV doesn't HDMI(which includes a lame attempt at a secure connection that only ends up adding to the cost), no HD signal for you.


Thanks but no thanks, I'll pass.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
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The only thing I care about when it comes to Blu-Ray or HD-DVD
is the increase data storage. When the burner and blank media become reasonably priced it means fewer discs to back up the contents of my harddrive.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
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DVD all over again
Remember that Angle button that all DVD players have...I have still not seen a disc that lets gives that button any use. All of these promises will be no different. There may be some improvements...but the majority are just a sales pitch to get people to buy into a minimal improvement in capability over DVD.
Posted by wwhit710 (22 comments )
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DVD extras - Do they matter?
There are 2 types of people when it comes to DVD extras. Those that watch them and those that don't.
To those that do, they were probably the best part of the conversion from VHS to DVD. Some extras are better than others and some are a complete waste of time, but for someone interested in movies and the craft of making them, they offered a unique view into the movie that was previously unavailable.
To those that don't, well, they were just a waste of space on the DVD. Interestingly many who don't are also the ones saying HD is a waste and current DVD quality is enough. ("Why would I want to spend money on a new player, a new TV, etc...") Clearly this isn't aimed at you; you're not a movie aficionado. Some folks think a Chevy is just as functional as a BMW, some folks thing Wranglers are as useful as Calvin Kleins. It doesn't say anything about you as a person, but you just have different priorities.

I'm a fan of the extras. Then again, I'm not the type to rave about the latest Jennifer Aniston movie so maybe that explains some things. Seeing what was cut from a movie, seeing how scenes were constructed offers a deeper understanding and thus appreciation of the work. I'm also a movie re-watcher, which many think is stupid. Then again, if you're watching the latest Anniston flick, you're probably right, it doesn't bear re-watching and a deeper understanding is probably unnecessary for that type of work. But there are some movies that are deep enough you will not get everything the first time, no matter how perceptive you are.

One further point to extras: This is probably the #1 deterrent to online movie swapping. Package the product with extra value to give incentive for buying the whole product. If all I want is to watch the movie once, there is very little reason for me to buy a movie. The industry can't compete against that. But the extras, which you don't find online, offer a substantial benefit to buying the whole product. And they don't cost $100 million to make like the original movie, so it's a much better return for the industry.

The flip side is that charging move for a movie with extras which totally suck is good incentive to just pirating the movie, so the industry needs to put a good faith effort into supplying quality extras and drop the attitude that we should be happy with whatever crap they offer.

Making better movies would also be good, but nobody pirating movies now will start buying them if the quality improves. That's a completely bogus argument offered by people desparately trying to justify actions they know inside are wrong.
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Designers? Yes. Studios? Yes. Not Me.
QUOTE:
"Thanks to the Internet connectivity, HD DVD also makes it
possible for designers to swap out a DVD's trailers so viewers
don't have to sit through dated ads for old movies."

If I bought it I shouldn't have to sit through ANY advertising,
dated or not. They're not going to convince me it's better for me
because the advertising changes. That's a good selling point for
Sony or Disney, but I'm not impressed.

So the player will phone home with information on how many
times you have viewed the commercials, so it can send you new
ones? Sounds like Sony's rootkit or Apple's Mini-store. Next
thing you know features will be dependent on phoning home
like Microsoft's latest blunder.

Almost every modern TV has PIP. When was the last time you
saw anyone use it? Do you think anyone will start just because
it's on the DVD player?

If you want to see what the "angle" button does, borrow a porn
DVD from your kids. The porn industry has been using the
angle feature for years. It's never been used on a "Hollywood"
movie because of the added cost of getting Sly or Mel, or Meg to
do twice as many takes. Also the costs of making the EFX look
good from more than one angle are prohibitive. I guess Jenna's
easier to work with than Meg, and porn's "special effects" are
more ... uh ... organic?

Most of what they are offering with the new formats is either
useless, lame or vapor-content. HD is good, but not good
enough by itself. Face it. This format change is for them, not
us.

On top of getting to re-market all the old stuff again, they are
getting to install stiffer DRM and it's ugly cousins, marketing
data and target advertising, right into the player, instead of just
the disk.
The designers and the studios want the next generation, but do
we?

People who steal the content don't have to fight with DRM.
Only honest people who buy the content do that.

People who steal content don't have to watch 15 minutes of
advertising and the FBI warning (that stays up to long) with their
remote control locked out.
Only honest people who buy the content do that.

If they want people to buy it, they should make it easier. They
should make it do what we want. This seems to be the opposite.

If they want marketing data from us, if they want better control
of the 15 minutes of forced advertising, if they want tighter
control of the content, if they want to sour the experience for
honest people who have bought their product, they're on the
right track.


Sorry, not interested.

Lampie The Clown
Posted by lampietheclown (73 comments )
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